Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly said that Master Sgt. Keith Milks, a Marine Corps spokesman, was based at the Pentagon. He is based at Camp Lejeune, N.C

Afghanistan Conflict Claims 3 Area Marines in Deadliest Month Yet

Marines carry the remains of Sgt. Michael Heede Jr., 22, of Edgewood at Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday.
Marines carry the remains of Sgt. Michael Heede Jr., 22, of Edgewood at Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday. (By Steve Ruark -- Associated Press)

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By Greg Gaudio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two Marines from Maryland and one from Virginia were killed in Afghanistan in the past eight days, underscoring an uptick in fighting that has made this month the deadliest since the conflict began.

Sgt. Michael W. Heede Jr., 22, of Edgewood; Staff Sgt. David S. Spicer, 33, of Olney; and Master Sgt. Jerome D. Hatfield, 36, of Axton, Va., were killed in the southern province of Helmand. Heede and Spicer died Monday; Hatfield died July 11. Causes of death are not released out of respect for the families, said Master Sgt. Keith Milks, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon.

Since July 1, at least 48 coalition troops, including 24 Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan, according to iCasualties.org, an independent Web site that tracks military fatalities. There were 46 casualties in June and August 2008, which had been the deadliest months until Friday.

The spike in casualties comes amid one of the largest offensives since the war began in 2001. In recent weeks, 4,000 Marines have moved into Helmand, a Taliban stronghold, in an attempt to destabilize the insurgents' influence there. Taliban fighters have a vested interest in defending the opium-rich region, which borders Pakistan, because profits from the drug are a main source of funding, Milks said.

Heede was a decorated Marine who grew up in Delta, Pa., near York. He was a 2005 graduate of Kennard-Dale High School.

"Michael was a great all-around boy," said Patricia Pitman, a family friend who lives in Delta. "He was a very well-mannered, laid-back, very nice person that wanted to make the Marines his career.

"He was very good at sports in school," she added.

Heede joined the military shortly after high school and had served in Iraq before his deployment to Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He was awarded several medals, including the Combat Action Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Spicer spent much of his life in Zanesfield, Ohio, a rural community about 55 miles northwest of Columbus. "He was as good a guy as you could ever meet," his brother, Tim Stacy, told the Columbus Dispatch. "He was in the military for 15 years. He loved the military. It was his life."

Spicer graduated from Benjamin Logan High School in 1994. He joined the Marines the same year and was promoted to staff sergeant in 2007, according to a Marine Corps statement. He was an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

He deployed to Afghanistan in May and had been selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant. He had been awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Spicer is survived by his wife, Kate, and a 1-year-old daughter.

Hatfield joined the Marines in June 1991 and was promoted to master sergeant in September 2007, according to a Marine Corps statement. He was the company operations chief for Delta Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

He was sent to Afghanistan last month and had done two tours in Iraq. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Combat Action Ribbon, among other awards.

He is survived by his wife, Angela; two sons, ages 19 and 17; and a daughter, 4.


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